FROM a beauty queen to a world class model -- that's the most appropriate description of Tanzania's Millen Magese, who at present ranks among Africa's top models.
The 2001 Miss Tanzania, whose real name is Happiness Magese, adopted Millen as her modelling name.
The 28-year-old gorgeous face of Arise Africa Fashion Week had initially intended to be a lawyer before turning over to modelling.
“My ambition was to be a lawyer so that I could help to deal effectively with gender issues, to fight for the poor and oppressed and to promote HIV/AIDS awareness in my country,” she says.
Millen was studying law when she entered the country's most revered beauty contest – Miss Tanzania pageant – in 2001.
She started her journey by winning the Miss Temeke title and progressed to the national finals where she was crowned Miss Tanzania. She also won a ticket to the Miss World pageant where she fared poorly.
However, the statuesque model has shown great potential since shooting to fame in 2005.
Her climb from obscurity to glamour girl occurred shortly after she made it to the cover of Kenya: Cosmopolitan in that year.
That one fateful cover set up a chain reaction that landed her bookings with major shows.
She later moved to South Africa, where she joined Ice Model Management, a Cape Town-based agency.
The 179cm tall model was the first Tanzanian model to be signed by Ice Models in South Africa. She later paved the way for former Miss Universe Tanzania Flaviana Matata.
Her startlingly intense eyes and perfect model features led to great success on the runway and in print.
An admirer of hers once said: “She is so beautiful, the minute you see her, you can't help but steal a glance.”
Today Millen is one of the most coveted models in Africa.
The many A-list local designer shows she has walked for include Mustafa Hassanali, Ebenoir, Christie Brown, David Tlale, Helen Asrat, Kluk CGDT, Nkwo, Pambili, Paul Herve Elisabeth, Sika Designs and Tiffany Amber.
Since her rise to fame she has captured the attention of designers and casting agencies and last year she signed with the New York’s Ford Models – the world's most prestigious modeling agency representing more than 2,500 models globally.
In appreciation, Millen's family hosted a dinner party in her honour. The party was to welcome her to New York City and wish her great success with her career with Ford Models.
The Tanzanian-born super-model has so far strutted down the major runways of Paris, New York and Canada and is currently signed as the first black model to do a campaign for Ralph Lauren.
Millen also featured on Autumn-Winter 2007 Durban, Kluk CGDT fashion show, Ready to wear – Spring-Summer 2008 Gideon, Habits By Jenny le Roux, Kobus Dippenaar, Maya Prass, Rosenwerth, Haute Couture – Spring-Summer 2008 and C’est, Paul van Zyl and Zinzi.
In January this year she strutted Tiffany Amber’s Ready-to-wear designs during the Spring-Summer 2010 fashion show.
And just fresh from walking the ramp on the New York Fashion Week, Millen was back for Audi Joburg Fashion the same month.
She was joined on stage by Karina de Silva, another model who is familiar to South African catwalks.
Also on the bill was Bisi Sowemimo and Nancy Simashele who are also no strangers to the local ramps. Another hottie who walked the ramp was male model JC Ngandu.
Millen was last year named the face of the Arise Africa Show for Arise Africa Fashion – the first showcase of fashion from the entire African continent.
She was among the continent's super models who graced the catwalk at the inaugural Arise Africa Fashion Show Week at Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, in June last year.
Others included New York-based Kenyan Ajuma Nasanyana, Victoria’s Secret angel Oluchi Onweagba of Nigeria, 2008 Face of Africa winner Kate Tachie-Menson from Ghana, last year's Miss South Africa, Tatum Keshwar, and her first runner-up, Anja van Zyl.
Speaking of the star-studded line-up, Creative Consultant to African Fashion International, Deon Redman, said: “We are delighted by the quality of professionalism and experience that we have for Arise Africa Fashion Week.
“What makes each of these girls special is that they are born and raised in Africa and have each carved out a niche for themselves in the international arena.”
Apart from modelling, Millen also loves music and discussing ideas.
“My sports are volleyball, basketball and table tennis and I dance the rumba,” she says.
Given her meteoric rise in such a short time, there is little doubt that this Tanzanian beauty is well on her way to becoming one of fashion’s brightest stars.